Vintage bridal patterns offer a unique alternative to modern bridal designs. Even if you’re already married, they provide a glimpse into past bridal fashions’ sometimes exotic vintage details—making them tempting even for those not in need of a wedding dress. (Can we expect Debi Fry to make her 1940 bridal pattern, McCall 4004?)
Now that wedding season is in full swing, here’s a selection of vintage bridal patterns, from the Twenties to the Eighties.
In the Twenties and Thirties, bridal patterns usually did double duty as patterns for formal dresses. This 1920s Peerless Patterns sign features a wedding illustration promoting a number of patterns:
This fantastic bridal or evening dress is short, in keeping with the current fashion, and may have one or two extended side panels that give the effect of a train:
Thirties bridal patterns have the same glamour we associate with the decade’s evening wear. This pattern for a bridal gown or dinner dress dates to circa June 1934:
A copy of McCall 8331 recently seen on eBay was accompanied by this wedding portrait, which shows the dress made up:
In the Forties the bride begins to take centre stage on pattern envelopes, although evening and bridesmaid versions are still included. This bridal or evening dress was reissued in the Vintage Vogue line as Vogue 2384:
This strong-shouldered, postwar design has a sweetheart neckline and waist piping detail. The pattern also includes a bridesmaid’s dress with short, shirred sleeves (click image for the technical drawings):
By the 1950s the bride, in her full-skirted glory, dominates the pattern envelope. This Jacques Fath design for a bride’s or bridesmaid’s dress has a bustled back and tiny shawl collar. The bridesmaid’s version simply lacks a train:
John Cavanagh was known for his connection to the English court. He licensed several bridal patterns with Vogue, and designed the Duchess of Kent’s wedding dress in 1961. (See my earlier post here.) This short-sleeved Cavanagh design has a simulated train; the smaller figures show bridesmaid’s and evening versions:
Also by John Cavanagh, this 1960s bridal design with a cathedral-length Watteau train was modelled by Jean Shrimpton:
No bridal pattern survey could be complete without this Halston pattern for bridal headpieces:
From the early 1970s, this Pierre Cardin bridal gown, shown in a silk knit, has an optional overskirt with handkerchief train:
Although it isn’t for everyone, Yves Saint Laurent’s couture bridal design for a gathered, bias dress, filmy coat, and five-yard veil distinguishes itself by showing the bride as wayward Vestal virgin (see Paco Peralta’s post here):
Released in 1980, this opulent Dior design for a bell-skirted bridal gown, complete with bias necktie, cummerbund, and bow-embellished headpiece, is drawn from the Christian Dior Haute Couture collection for Fall 1979 (read Dustin’s post here):
Perfect for steampunk weddings, Vogue 2180 by Bellville Sassoon has an elaborate bustle that gives it a neo-Victorian flair:
The cape trend of the last two years shows no sign of abating. (Read a Fashionising post about the trend here.) In terms of sewing patterns, Donna Karan’s V2924 was ahead of the trend (see Erica B’s version here) and this fall we have V1322 by DKNY. Paco Peralta has several cape designs available including the sculptural Funghi. In vintage reissues, Butterick has re-released some vintage cape patterns in their Retro line: B6329 (from 1935) and B6411 (a reissue of Butterick 4570 from 1948).
I often find myself reaching for the vintage version of a current trend, and I’ll have a cape project to share with you soon. While looking for the right pattern, I was struck by the variety of cape designs over the decades. Here’s a selection of vintage cape patterns from the Twenties to the Eighties.
Two 1920s patterns in my collection have capes with interesting details. This mid-Twenties pattern for a dress by Renée also includes a cape with button/strap closure:
And I still love the pointed yoke of this Miler Soeurs cape (see my grey version here):
The Thirties were a good decade for capes. This 1936 copy of McCall Style News shows a matching cape and dress ensemble:
Sewing bloggers’ 1930s capes show how contemporary these vintage outerwear styles can look today. Debi’s mid-Thirties cape pattern has a similar look to the ensemble illustrated above, but with a false front creating the illusion of a matching jacket. Click the image to see her finished version:
Puu’s late ’30s cape has a high-collared yoke, arm slits, and rounded, gathered shoulders (click the image for her construction post and see the finished version here):
The fashion for capes continued into the Forties. The decade’s strong-shouldered silhouette is visible in these two cape patterns from my collection. The first, from the early ’40s, has a pronounced, boxy shape and optional broad stand-up collar:
The second cape shades into New Look sleekness, with a narrower collar and lower hemline:
In the Fifties, capes showed a de-emphasis on the shoulders and a fullness that carries over to the early ’60s. Vogue 1089 by Robert Piguet is actually from 1949; I thought it might really be a capelet, but the envelope description calls it a “flared cape with diagonal double-breasted closing below soft shaped collar”:
Here’s an illustration of the Piguet ensemble by Bernard Blossac:
This mid-Fifties cape by Jacques Fath has big, buttoned cuffs at the arm vents. The shaped collar is part of the suit underneath:
The Sixties were another good decade for capes. On this Vogue Pattern Book cover, Wilhelmina Cooper exemplifies the “thoroughbred look” of Fall 1963 in a tailored yellow cape:
This elegant cape by Nina Ricci has a wide shawl collar and is shaped by released inverted darts. The model is Maggie Eckhardt:
Astrid Heeren models this fabulous mod cape by Pierre Cardin:
This late ’60s design by Pucci is modelled by Birgitta af Klercker and was photographed in Rome at La Cisterna:
As the Seventies progressed, capes generally kept their collars, but gained a new fluidity. This mid-Seventies Halston “poncho-cape” has a collar and button front, but is reversible:
This late ’70s Chloé design by Karl Lagerfeld, featuring Jerry Hall, includes a three-quarter length, circular cape with pointed bias collar. The cape gets its strong shoulders from an inside button and tab at each shoulder:
In the Eighties, fluidity gained the upper hand, as seen in these full, collarless, and unstructured capes by Yves Saint Laurent:
Would you wear a vintage cape, or do you prefer the cape’s more recent incarnations?
Before getting into film acting in the 1970s, former Miss Sweden Maud Adams (née Wikström, b. 1945), worked as a model in Paris and New York for publications including Vogue, McCall’s, and Vogue Patterns. McCall’s 1044 sees her modelling a check suit by Laird-Knox:
Maud Adams appears on many Vogue designer patterns of the later ’60s, such as this one for a dress by Patou:
Here she wears a dress and matching scarf by James Galanos:
And here Adams models the maxi version of Vogue 1847, a fabulous halter dress by Pierre Cardin:
Maud Adams also appears on several late Sixties covers of Vogue Pattern Book. Here’s a selection:
I’m not aware of any Jean Paul Gaultier sewing patterns, but two of the houses where Gaultier worked as assistant designer before starting his own fashion business—Pierre Cardin and Jean Patou—had licensing agreements with Vogue Patterns. On his eighteenth birthday, April 24, 1970, Jean Paul Gaultier was hired as assistant designer at Pierre Cardin. The following year, after a brief stint at Jacques Esterel, Gaultier began work as assistant designer at the house of Jean Patou. In 1974 he returned to Pierre Cardin, working at the house’s Manila studio before launching his own label in 1976.
In honour of Jean Paul Gaultier, I thought I’d feature a few early seventies patterns from Cardin and Patou from around the time Gaultier was working as assistant designer at each house. (I may have overlooked some patterns—currently the early ’70s don’t seem to be very well represented in the Vintage Patterns Wiki.) I’ve tried to factor in the time lag between runway presentation and the appearance of a licensed Vogue design, but I should stress that my choices represent a rough guess.
First, two Cardin patterns from 1971. Vogue 2405 is a long-sleeved or sleeveless dress with loop streamers. The three streamers extend from the right side of the high waist and re-join the garment at the hemline:
Vogue 2520 is a Pierre Cardin bridal gown: a long-sleeved, A-line wedding dress with high Empire waist and train-like back panel. The April/May 1971 issue of Vogue Pattern Book shows the dress made up in a silk knit. Isn’t it lovely?
The most fabulous mid-seventies Jean Patou pattern I’ve seen is actually a loungewear design. Vogue 1344, modelled by Billie Blair, is an evening-length dress with a boat neck, blouson bodice, dolman sleeves, side slit, and a contrast sash with streamers:
Unless I’m mistaken, Vogue 1344 is the rightmost dress in this Vogue Patterns editorial photo:
The pattern envelope calls the dress “Misses’ loungewear.” Since the house of Patou was exclusively a couture house, this must be an example of couture loungewear! Maybe it’s because I just saw the Montreal exhibit, but Vogue 1344 and Vogue 2405 remind me of a design in the show’s first room, a couture dress from Gaultier’s Spring 2007 couture collection. (See a photo of the mannequin on The Sewing Divas blog here.) The dress plays with the idea of streamers, integrating them into the skirt and also the motif of the bleeding heart:
Catherine Deneuve wore a black version to the 2007 Academy Awards:
Gaultier himself designs through sketches, then collaborates with his atelier staff to develop the final design. In an interview with the curator of the Montreal exhibit, Gaultier discusses his formative technical training at Cardin and Patou. He says he “definitely had my rite of passage at Patou” and was still developing his technique during his second position at Cardin, when he made clothes for the notorious Imelda Marcos:
“When I worked for Cardin in the Philippines, I was always learning, because I really didn’t have any technique at that point. I dressed Imelda Marcos, making her clothes under the Cardin name that didn’t hold up or have the right proportions, but she wore them all the same!”
This week my series on Mad Men-era designer patterns continues with four designers who established their labels between the early 1940s and 1950: Jacques Griffe, Pauline Trigère, Pierre Balmain, and Pierre Cardin.
Jacques Griffe (1917-1974)
Jacques Griffe was born in the medieval city of Carcassonne, France. After two apprenticeships, first with a tailor and then with a local dressmaker, he worked as a cutter for Vionnet until the house’s closure in 1939. Griffe established his own house in 1942. During the later 1940s he also worked as assistant to Molyneux and moved into Molyneux’s salon after the couturier’s 1950 retirement. Griffe himself retired in 1968. As may be expected from a designer who worked with Vionnet, Griffe was known for the cut and drape of his garments.
Vogue 1264 is a pattern for a dress and matching coat. (Click here to see back views.) The slim dress, which buttons at the left shoulder, has front princess seams and concealed pockets; an optional half belt ties at the back. The coat with cowl back and seven-eighths sleeves is the ensemble’s centrepiece. The cowl is created by an applied shoulder yoke that ties in front like a scarf:
Pauline Trigère (1908-2002)
Pauline Trigère is unique among this week’s designers in that, despite being Parisian by birth, she established an American label rather than a French couture house. Born in Pigalle to Russian-Jewish parents—a dressmaker and tailor in whose shop she worked as a child—Trigère worked as a cutter at Martial et Armand before emigrating to New York City in 1937. She founded her own label in 1943. Like Vionnet before her, Trigère designed using the draping method. According to her New York Times obituary, she was the first designer to use an African-American model, in 1961. Trigère stayed with McCall’s through the 1960s when most of McCall’s designers were moving their licensing agreements to Vogue Patterns. She continued to design clothing collections until 1994. If you’ve seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) you’ve seen some of Pauline Trigère’s work: Patricia Neal’s character was dressed entirely in Trigère designs.
McCall’s 6599, an evening dress with side drape and ribbon belt, dates to 1962. I have this one in my collection. There are grander ’60s Trigère patterns, but I find McCall’s 6599 epitomizes the elegant simplicity for which the designer was famous. The bodice has French darts, and the side drape (which may be faced with contrast fabric) is sewn to the dress front, with an opening at the waist for the ribbon belt:
Pierre Balmain spent a year studying architecture before beginning his fashion career at the houses of Robert Piguet and Molyneux in the 1930s. Before and during the Second World War he worked at the house of Lucien Lelong, where Christian Dior was a fellow employee. Pierre Balmain established the house of Balmain in 1945, and soon became one of the most successful designers of the New Look. He remained chief designer for the house until his death in the early 1980s. Balmain’s architectural training shows in his emphasis on simplicity, form, and perfect construction.
Vogue 1340, modelled by Maggie Eckhardt, is another short evening dress. The dart-fitted dress has cap sleeves, a straight front neckline that dips into a low cowl back, and a curved belt at the raised waist. I love how the belt, cowl and front neckline create a series of curves that undulate around the body:
Pierre Cardin (1922-)
Born in Venice as Pietro Cardini, Pierre Cardin is well-known as a brilliant businessman as well as a fashion innovator. Like Balmain, he studied architecture briefly before turning to a career in fashion. He worked at a number of major houses including Paquin, Schiaparelli, and Dior, where he was head of the tailoring (coat and suit) atelier. The house of Pierre Cardin was established in 1950. Cardin moved his pattern licensing from McCall’s to Vogue in the early 1960s. (See my earlier post for an image of a Cardin/McCall’s pattern from 1960.) Even before his 1964 Space Age or ‘Cosmocorps’ collection, which presented the futuristic sixties look most associated with Cardin today, he was known for his architectural, sculpted garments.
Vogue 1278 is a perfect little skirt suit. The slim skirt falls just below the knee, and the belted jacket has three-quarter sleeves and a link-button closure below the broad, pointed collar. The photograph shows the suit made up in what looks like a stiff, textured wool that accentuates the jacket’s forms:
(Where is Givenchy, you ask? In the early 1960s Hubert de Givenchy seems to have taken a break from pattern licensing. I have seen only one early ’60s Givenchy pattern, and Givenchy’s last set of patterns for McCall’s—four designs for Audrey Hepburn in “How to Steal a Million” (1966)—falls outside our period. You can see Fuzzylizzie’s post on the 1966 patterns here.)
Although I’m organizing designers strictly by the date each founded his or her business, this week’s designers happen to fall into two camps: the first two are drapers (both of whom worked as cutters for venerable Paris couture houses), and the last two are former architecture students. It’s interesting to see evidence of their training in their designs.